Xbox boss calls for ‘legal emulation’ of industry-wide video games

Backward compatibility has its legal limits (photo: Microsoft)

Phil Spencer wants the entire gaming industry to work together to improve game preservation and prevent titles from disappearing forever.

Despite all the work with Xbox Backward Compatibility, if we want to play our Xbox 360 copy of Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron (one of our favorite action games of this generation) on an Xbox One or Xbox Series X, we can’t.

Because this is a license that the original publisher Activision no longer owns, it cannot be digitally sold in any format, and Microsoft does not have the right to emulate it for backward compatibility. Its online features also don’t work, as the servers have been shut down for a long time.

The same goes for many games, including a number of pre-MCU Marvel titles and the Forza series, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer has called on companies to allow “legal emulation” to get around the problem. .

While it’s not something publishers like to talk about, persistence in gaming has become an increasingly important topic in recent years as games increasingly rely on online features that are often turned off once. that the game is no longer popular or that the licenses have expired.

Emulation is an answer to this problem but it is a legal gray area and in an interview with AxesXbox boss Phil Spencer called for an industry-wide standard to ensure old games don’t just disappear.

Currently, Microsoft must get permission to individually run each game that works with backward compatibility, and although few publishers say no, they can’t give permission if they no longer license the game – or s ‘they filed for bankruptcy, which is common with older titles.

When Microsoft announced last week that 76 latest games would be added via backward compatibility, it said the reason for not adding more was due to “licensing, legal and technical constraints.”

Spencer wants the industry to accept an emulator standard that can keep those old games alive and not make backward compatibility so difficult.

“I think we can learn from the history of how we got here through creation,” Spencer said. “I like it in music. I love it in movies and on TV, and there are good reasons the game wants to follow.

“My hope (and I think I have to frame it that way from now on) is that as an industry we would be working on some legal emulation that would allow modern hardware to run any older executable. (within reason) allowing anyone to play any game, ”he wrote in a direct message.

However, there is probably little chance of that happening, especially when Spencer starts talking about completely divorcing games from their original platforms. Which wouldn’t suit Sony or Nintendo, and seems slightly misleading given the recent fury over The Elder Scrolls 6 exclusivity on Xbox.

Nonetheless, Spencer ended by saying, “I think at the end of the day if we were to say, ‘Hey, anyone should be able to buy any game, or own any game and keep playing.’ , it seems like a big North Star for us as an industry. ‘

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John C. Dent